A new report from QinetiQ and Cranfield School of Management found that, whilst the majority of Service personnel and their partners have good life skills, some require additional support to help them develop the skills needed to deal with the demands and challenges of daily life when they leave the Armed Forces.
Service personnel most affected included those lower in rank and younger in age, who have not had the chance to develop their skills, or those who had poor Life Skills on joining.
Life skills are a broad set of skills that underpin positive personal, social, and work outcomes. The research, led by Natalie Fisher from QinetiQ and supported by Cranfield School of Management, found that most Service personnel (87.2%) and partners of serving personnel (82.4%) report having good life skills. Fewer serving personnel (51.7%) thought they had good life skills when they first joined the military.
Personnel and families highlighted problem-solving, communication, decision making, critical thinking and planning amongst their strongest life skills. Areas where they felt their skills were weaker included applying for jobs, work-life balance, managing their own learning, networking, and digital/IT skills.
Serving personnel and their families indicated that they would like additional support to develop these skills, as well as assistance with mental wellbeing and help with the emotional adjustment to civilian life.
Impact On Transition
The research found that there is a small number of Armed Forces personnel that are more affected by poor life skills when transitioning to civilian life. Research on negative transitions has shown that weaker life skills are common amongst those who struggle to adapt to civilian life, including those in the criminal justice system and homeless veterans.
Many of those who thought they had poor life skills had not developed positive life skills before joining the Armed Forces, and had not gone on to develop their skills whilst serving. Some indicated that they felt this was due to the Armed Forces lifestyle, including the impact of frequent mobility and a lack of independence.
Whilst there is significant support available for Service personnel and their families when they leave the Armed Forces, there are currently gaps in the provision for life skills development and the support available is not always reaching those in most need.
The report makes a number of recommendations for improving life skills in the Armed Forces, and aiding individuals transition to civilian life. These include:
- The MOD adopting a single definition of life skills to understand what life skills are and what they comprise.
- More explicit instruction, beyond signposting to resources, for those most in need of life skills support. For these individuals, life skills support may need to take a more practical or classroom-based approach, as they are the most in need of extra support, but also the least likely to ask for help.
- The adoption of a risk-based model to understand who is most likely to need life skills support and to direct that support effectively.